Thursday, August 23, 2007

When slugs rule...

Slugs galore! by northdevonfarmerIf it's not bad enough that a grey blanket of cloud has been a permanent feature this summer, the wet weather has had another impact: the slug population in gardens across the country has doubled.In what has become a record year for slug breeding, experts estimate there could be 15 billion in Britain - with up to 1,000 found in a single square metre.

Slugs eat twice their body weight every day and are able to lay up to 100 eggs each, so gardeners and farmers are understandably concerned at the impact of a lacklustre summer which has provided the perfect conditions for the pests to thrive.

Read the rest of this article from The Guardian to appreciate why we've been having big troubles this summer!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Future foods

If you're one of our customers, you might find my 'review' of this summer's growing conditions - and the implications for the future - of interest. Click here to see it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A difficult summer

Mulching a pear tree in spring
2007 Season – news so far (written by Jill): The new season started with a promising but rather unseasonable hot and sunny April leaving us complaining of drought conditions by the first week in May! Since then it seems like we have had nothing but rain, wind and overcast days. Unfortunately this has been perfect weather for fungal diseases, slugs and weeds to flourish and this has had a severe effect on some of our crops:

  • Broad, French and runner beans have failed to set due to the lack of bees and other pollinating insects, resulting in no beans or late crops

  • Sugar snap peas have brown marks on pods, spread by rain splash (but should not affect eating)

  • Onions and garlic are small and have been badly knocked back by fungal diseases – again this may affect storage.

  • Brassicas and lettuce are slow to develop and have been devastated by slugs

  • Potato blight has hit particularly early and has gone into some of the tubers (brown/grey coloured flesh) and may affect winter storage.

  • Tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and peppers are taking longer than usual to mature, and have also been subject to fungal disease.

  • Apples have bad scab and canker.

We trust that you will understand the problems we have encountered and stick with us. With the loss of things like the beans, we have been struggling to find enough variety to put in the bags/boxes so far, but hope that the “summer veg” will come into its own soon. We hope that over a full year, our bags will average out as being good quality and value. We do our best but we can’t control what the weather brings us. As you know, our vegetables and fruit are seasonal and all produce comes from our two farms.

Potato day: Jill and Mike will be holding a “potato harvesting day” where the potatoes, once lifted out of the ground by tractor, need to be picked and packed into storage crates. Refreshments will be provided during the day and a few extra pairs of hands would make all the difference and hopefully the day will be fun too. They can’t be sure of the date because it’s very weather-dependent though it will be at a weekend sometime quite soon – provisionally sometime during the Bank holiday weekend August 25-27 September 1st. If you would like to come along, please call Jill. She will then contact you when a date can be confirmed (dependant on having a a couple of days of dry weather).

Re-use and recycling of packaging: Thank you for returning the cardboard veg boxes and any used and clean punnets, egg boxes and carrier bags. We try to use as many paper bags as possible and you will be pleased to hear that we are about to change over to biodegradable plastic bags.

Bag collection and payment: Thanks for picking up the veg promptly any time after 5pm on Fridays. It helps if you can pay for the veg on a monthly basis, but please remember that some months have 5 weeks in them! Any cheques should be made payable to Val Lynas.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Never mind the weather! Back in production today

Our 'new year' starts today. Above are (from left) Deo, Roger (telling a joke, no doubt), Jill and Val in the packing shed preparing the boxes and bags for our customers. This is our first veg for this year: summer 2007 until spring 2008. And once again we are indebted to Deo who has spent many days working voluntarily to help Jill and Ty'n Lon during spring and summer.

It's been a pretty dreadful summer for us. Weeds worse than ever because of the rain, which has brought diseases like potato blight which came early and in a new, much worse form than before. Because of the lack of warmth and sunshine, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers have been slow to develop and ripen. The slugs are always on the verge of gaining the upper hand.
Even so, we battle on...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

End-of-season party for volunteers

celebration at Ty'n Lon
Left to Right: Jill, Val, Mike, Beverley (Roger's partner), Danielle (Deio's partner), Roger and Deio (who supplied the proper French champagne). Click the image for full size version.

Being a volunteer for Llangybi Organics has many bonuses. Above is one of them, a celebratory party for Deio and Roger, who have helped us so willingly through the winter. Deio, in particular, has been a stalwart, working with Jill helping with harvesting whatever the weather and then continuing on with the packing on Friday afternoon. Once, he brought Danielle and his daughter to help with the packing. That really went well!

Five reasons why you should consider becoming a Llangybi Organics volunteer:
  1. The 'crack', as the Irish have it: good conversation, appalling jokes (Roger is joke specialist but, sadly, may be moving away from the area), serious discussions... it's all there on Friday afternoons
  2. Multilingual chat: at least 4 languages are in variably common use by the packing team. Welsh and English, obviously, but also Spanish and some French.
  3. Healthy outdoor work
  4. Free vegetables as a 'thank you'
  5. You're helping a small sustainable company supply high-quality veg and fruit to its loyal band of customers

If you think you might like to join in, contact Val or Jill by phone or email.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Spring 'holiday': the Hungry Gap

Temporary close-down: We've posted a notice in the Swallow House about closing down at the end of March. I'm posting the same notice here. I don't mean that we're closing down permanently; merely that our main stocks are running low which means production dwindles considerably at this time of year. We shall be re-opening at the end of July, never fear. We shall still have some veg like lettuce for those of you who want to keep in touch, by phone or email, to see what there is.

The Hungry Gap: This period from Spring to mid-Summer is usually known as the Hungry Gap. It refects the inevitable fact root crops are either exhausted or unusable whilst leafy crops like oriental greens 'bolt' to seed as the days lenthen. So it's a period of renewal in which we all busy ourselves cultivating the soil, sowing seeds and nursing new crops ready to start being harvested when we reopen. This is a period, incidentally, when we effectively work without pay. We cease to have income from you, our customers, because we have nothing to give you. Something to bear in mind if you think our stuff is expensive!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wintertime activities on the farms

Moel Hebog from Mur Crusto. Click to enlarge.

We're at last experiencing some cold weather... well, relatively cold. We've had temperatures dropping to 0 Celsius once or twice and even a little ice on the ponds. Okay, that's not very cold but the mountains are snowy and the brisk north wind makes it feel cold.

As we're about to explain in a customer newsletter, paper version via the boxes, we don't at this stage know how long we can maintain full production. We normally close down by March or thereabouts simply because almost everything has run out. Some things are plentiful like Jill's carrots and parsnips - but she hates these because they're a devilish pair of crops to harvest in cold weather. The parsnips have especially deep roots and are reluctant to leave the ground. Happily, Jill is helped every Friday (harvest day) by Deo, one of our two volunteers. Trouble is, we don't know how we'd cope without our volunteers. At Mur Crusto, the polytunnel green leafy stuff is still looking reasonable though we have problems with mildews and tiny slugs. At least veg with holes in the leaves is proof that it's grown without pesticides!

Bry tipping barrowload of mulch around cleared base of a fruit tree. Click to enlarge.
Val and I have been tending the orchard at Mur Crusto, now that the trees are at last beginning to bear some fruit. This involves cleaning round the base of each tree with a Spanish tool called an azada and then mulching heavily with rotted wood chips. Jill says she's been having serious problems with voles undermining her trees and eating the roots. They hide very happily under certain mulches like straw or grass or any kind of matting but we're hoping wood chips will just collapse into their tunnels and put them off. Voles are quite a serious pest for us. They severely damaged our potato crop last summer for a start.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Winter or spring?

To find out the significance of the picture below, please visit my other blog! There, all will be revealed - and yes, it is Llangybi Organics news but I believe it bears a wider significance.